I like rental cars. One of my favorite things to do, ever, is to drive through unfamiliar places in a brand new car that isn’t mine, preferably with the radio blaring and the windows rolled down. Years ago, when I traveled for work through Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Southern California, the few hours spent in the rental car between the airport and the job site was my favorite part of the day. While hotel rooms– with their utilitarian carpet and their black-out curtains and their total lack of bookshelves– made me feel like a stranger in a strange land, my rental car always made me feel like myself in a strange land.
Very shortly, I leave on a fantasy trip: ten days tramping all over the Pacific Northwest. I’ll be seeing family, friends, former co-workers (a.k.a. friends), and hopefully, spending some time alone too.
Right or wrong, I’m still labeling this a (mostly) car-less vacation, primarily because I decided not to rent a car to travel the four hundred and forty-eight miles from Oregon to Washington to British Columbia. Instead, I have plane, train, and ferry tickets printed. I’ll be catching rides from friends, and my husband rented a car for our few days together on the Oregon coast. Plus, I’ve got five free Lyft rides waiting for me in the cloud.
A few things I am not bringing on my trip: car keys, my laptop, and (yikes!) a real, non-iPhone camera.
A few things I am bringing on my trip: a passport (yes!), a journal, running shoes.
Deciding not to rent a car was not hard, the cost being beyond exorbitant. (I guess a few other people had the brilliant idea to go on vacation in August?) But, I admit to being a little nervous about relying largely on unfamiliar public transportation, on the extensive list of tickets and connections necessary to cross this many miles, and on the kindness of friends who have offered to meet me or drive me places.
But mostly I’m nervous about the lack of solo time. Will long ferry rides and train rides surrounded by strangers serve as a decent substitute for being completely alone and completely in control in a rental car? I’m thinking, no. But then again, am I ever really alone and in control? I’m always lugging my loved ones around in my head— talking, arguing, and joking with them. And control, well, that’s as imaginary as the arguments in my head.
Maybe I’ll find that I prefer turning off my inner GPS and letting the conductor/captain make the big decisions, while I take pictures or write long, boring journal entries in my rapidly degrading cursive. In adult life, it’s not everyday that we get to rely on a captain, and I intend to enjoy it.